They don't just play film geeks on stage: For a lark, the four actors in Annie Baker's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Flick—Matthew Maher, Louisa Krause, Aaron Clifton Moten and Alex Hanna—offered to review recent films for Time Out. Below they give quick reactions to Diary of a Teenage Girl, How to Smell a Rose, Z for Zachariah and Ten Thousand Saints. Consider this also a sweet sendoff to Krause, Moten and Hanna: The fine actors, who appeared in the 2013 world premiere of Baker’s piece at Playwrights Horizons, end their run on Sunday. The production continues at Barrow Street Theatre with Maher, Kyle Beltran, Nicole Rodenburg and Brian Miskell. Lastly, while we love these performers, we do think you’re better off with our film experts.
Diary of a Teenage Girl (Matthew Maher, Sam)
It’s hard to believe that Diary Of A Teenage Girl is Marielle Heller’s first feature. It’s so self-assured, a completely imagined world that invites you in and unpacks difficult truths with great care and sophistication. The story is pretty simple: Minnie, the teenage girl of the title, embarks on a sexual awakening by having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe. It’s easy to guess how the plot itself unfolds, and anyway to describe it would only illuminate one layer of the film. There’s another layer that runs concurrent to the story, and that’s the landscape of Minnie’s feelings: a churning, ever evolving, often contradictory stream of consciousness that plays out across the screen with the help of beautiful camerawork, appealing animation (Minnie is an aspiring cartoonist, the movie is based on a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner) and the ripples of feeling that run across the face of Bel Powley, who gives an amazing performance as the main character. Diary never judges its characters, not the mother’s boyfriend or the mother herself—whose emotional absence leaves room for Monroe’s advances. In fact, rather than simply telling the story of a girl being taken advantage of by a predatory narcissist, the movie allows Minnie ownership over the affair. She’s a messy person, ruled by her fears and her longings, making decisions with scanty information, hurting people and getting hurt along the way. She gropes through confusion towards self-awareness and, the movie implies with hope, the birth of an artistic vision. The movie also demonstrates quite a bit of artistic vision, and I can’t wait to see what Heller makes next. In the meantime, go see her film. Time Out review here.
How to Smell a Rose (Louisa Krause, Rose)
When filmmaker Richard Leacock is asked how to teach somebody to film, he responds, “How do you teach somebody to smell a rose?” What's it like to be some place with somebody? How do you capture the feeling of being there? How do you "look look look" with camera? Richard Leacock captured life itself with his camera, and Les Blank along with co-filmmaker Gina Leibrecht allow the viewers to experience Leacock in the same way at his house in Normandy.
Z for Zachariah (Aaron Clifton Moten, Avery)
Craig Zobel succeeds in many ways with this film. The “three-hander” is well cast with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Loomis, Margot Robbie as Ann and Chris Pine as Caleb. The film, set at the potential end of human civilization, sustains a convincing mood of pending doom through its 95 minutes. A love triangle at the end of the world invokes questions about the significance of race, religion and education as a scientist (Ejiofor) and a miner (Pine) vie for the companionship of a farmer (Robbie).
Ten Thousand Saints (Alex Hanna, Skylar/The Dreaming Man)
What are the tips a young man needs on his way to manhood? Get high? Get straight? Fall in love? Keep your distance? A renegade teen from Vermont in the late '80s, Jude (a vulnerable and beautifully complex Asa Butterfield) moves to NYC and tries to make sense of who he is, picking up tips from his misfit father (Ethan Hawke) and the rogue lifestyle of his musician friend (Emile Hirsch), while also doing right by his pregnant, uptown love interest (Hailee Steinfeld). Despite heavy-handed exposition and flashes of melodrama, the cast members (including the brilliant Emily Mortimer and Julianne Nicholson) each reveal beautiful inner monsters. Co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini conjure the grit, grime, and chaos of Alphabet City in the Koch years, poignantly weighing advice to help their protagonist through his darkest days.